Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Ocean Observatories
Ocean Observatories at MBARI

Ocean observatories in and near Monterey Bay

Ocean observation systems are under development to provide critical information for research on climate change, biogeochemical cycles, ecosystem assessment, and environmental hazards. Observation system architectures include those that use seafloor cables to distribute power and communications, systems composed of small profiling floats seeded through the world’s oceans, and even systems that attach sensors to large marine predators that traverse ocean basins. The increasing maturity of autonomous mobile platforms enables adaptive observing systems which increase access while reducing costs. While the sophistication of observing technology is increasing, the difficulty of the problems is rising as well. For example, many of the chemical transformations in the ocean are mediated by organisms that are as of yet undiscovered. Consequently, the ability to take samples and conduct laboratory-type experiments in situ is essential. The Arctic Ocean is an important piece of the climate puzzle, yet remains all but inaccessible to traditional observing methods. Perhaps the greatest need, however, is to connect scientific inquiry to policy.

Monterey Ocean Observing System (MOOS): The Shepard Meander Experiment was designed to demonstrate the capabilities of the MOOS system in deep water, but within communications and servicing range. The multidisciplinary study addresses particulate organic carbon flux (POC) in lower Monterey Canyon and its effect on biological communities.

Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS): The Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS) allows scientists to perform long-term and real-time experiments 900 meters below the surface of Monterey Bay. The main MARS node (orange box with sloping sides) connects to shore through a 52-kilometer-long power and fiber-optic cable. MARS serves as an engineering, science, and education test bed for even larger regional ocean observatories.

Autonomous Ocean Sampling Network (AOSN): This two-month series of experiments was conducted from mid-July through mid-September 2006, involving a dozen different institutions, thirteen research vessels, over three dozen robot submarines, and many other fixed and drifting oceanographic instruments.

LOBO networkLand/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory: The Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory is a real-time chemical sensor network for marine systems. The observing system uses in situ chemical sensors to determine chemical fluxes into, within, and out of Elkhorn Slough. The biogeochemical processes that produce these fluxes are then assessed. The primary focus is to measure nutrients, such as nitrate, ammonium, and phosphate, using instruments that allow for high-resolution sampling and the ability to access the data in near-real time. Water properties such as salinity, temperature, and current velocity are combined with the nutrient measurements to determine important processes that affect the biogeochemistry of Elkhorn Slough.

OASIS moorings -- CIMT Buoy M0OASIS: Since 1989 MBARI has operated a mooring observing system in Monterey Bay. Currently three instrument moorings are deployed and returning data, called M0, M1, and M2.

Deployed Observatories
Observatory Facilities
(NSF testbed cabled observatory) MBARI Observatories Community observatory efforts with MBARI contributions
  Data Systems


MBARI Technology Transfer



Last updated: Aug. 17, 2010
Shepard Meander Experiment Monterey Accelerated Research System Autonomous Ocean Sampling Network OASIS Moorings Land Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory